Friday, June 18, 2010

Fire and Sword by Edward Marston

Daniel Rawson is a soldier in the British Army, fighting the forces of the French in the 1700's. Daniel has made himself into something of an infiltrator, able to speak both French and Dutch fluently. His latest exploit is in sneaking into the French camp and learning something of their battle orders from one of their members who is drunk. But his task isn't without risk, because on his way out of the Inn where he and the Frenchmen have been drinking, one of them, suspecting that he is a spy, grabs him and attempts to interrogate him.

Luckily, Daniel is able to overpower the man, kill him, steal the uniform of the man whose drunkenness led him to spill the information, and escape, but because of the killing, Daniel suddenly becomes of paramount importance to the French, as they begin to suspect, based on information from their own spies in the British camp, that the same man who portrayed "Marcel Daron, the wine merchant" is the same man who engineered the only successful jailbreak from the Bastille, ever.

But as Daniel and others deal with the fact that his superior and leader of the army, Malborough, has been removed from his post with the army at the orders of the Queen, a plot to lure him back to the French so that he can be tried and imprisoned is being made. And to do that, someone will need to get information on who and what Daniel loves so that they can compel him into another mission to the French Camp.

Luckily, the discommendation of Marlborogh is a temporary thing, and Daniel is soon back working as his adjutant. But the French spies find out that one of Daniel's fellow soldiers is a veritable font of information on Daniel, and not only do they find out that, yes, Daniel *is* the same man who made the jailbreak from the Bastille, but that he is in love with a Dutchwoman, the daughter of the weaver whom he broke out of the Bastille, Amalia Janssen.

Nor is all the damage on the English side this time. The King of France has turned command of the army over to his son, the duc de Burgundy, at the side of the duc de Vendôme, a more experienced military man who has his own quirks and foibles, like doing most of his business in camp seated on the toilet, and his habit of bedding his handsome junior officers. Louis, the duc du Burgundy, is offended by such practices, and is eager to pull his rank on Vendôme, but Vendôme claims to have a plan, and sends some of his soldiers and infiltrators to snatch Amalia Janssen and take her to the French camp. They are successful in this, and Daniel Rawson soon receives word that she is missing.

To get her back, he must once again infiltrate the camp, this time under the guise of a simple carter. But now the French have a drawing of exactly what he looks like, and while saving Amalia, and another French maiden who one of the French Captains lured to the camp to despoil, he inadvertantly leaves behind something else very dear to him- his sword, which he received when he was just a small boy. Can he brave the camp a third time to retrieve it, successfully, I might add, and escape when the full might of the French are against him: And can Amalia and the British soldiers uncover a spy who has successfully sneaked into camp, and find the camp of deserters who are causing both French and British headaches by preying on the surrounding countryside?

Another excellent book from Edward Marston. This one wasn't so much a mystery, really. It was more in the line of an adventure story. We get to know who is killing the French villagers and setting their houses on fire and raping the women all before the British soldiers track them down and put a stop to their antics, and the rest of the story is more like "Will Daniel be able to infiltrate the French camp one more time and escape without being captured?

Even though this book has very little in it that is a mystery, I still found it fun and enjoyable to read, but a mystery, as I think of the mystery genre, no. it wasn't a mystery, or at least, not much of one. Most of the story seemed to revolve around Daniel's exploits in and among the French camp much more than that of the raiders and who might be able to catch them- because they disguise themselves in both English and French uniforms.

Not much of a mystery, this book will nonetheless be of interest to anyone who enjoys a pretty good cracking adventure story. This one has plenty to interest even non-mystery fans- exciting chases, spies and perilous escapes. There's a lot to enjoy here, but I felt the mystery was not much of a mystery-we know who is committing the crimes and why they are doing so, all that is in doubt is when they will be captured, and that is much before the end of the book. Recommended.

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